Bitter blow as Ajax’s wonder year ends in defeat
Ajax Amsterdam coach Erik ten Hag has said their Champions League elimination was a “bitter blow” and that they had thrown away their chance to reach the knockout stages.
Ajax needed only a draw in their last Group H match at home to Valencia on Tuesday but were beaten 1-0, a result that saw them finish third and dropped them into the Europa League.
“We were already on the verge of qualifying two games ago already,” Ten Hag said, referring to their 4-4 draw at Chelsea in early November when Ajax were three up with less than 30 minutes left to play.
“That makes it even more bitter. We deserved to go through but we had let it slip through our own hands. We have to look at ourselves.”
It is a deflating end to a stellar year in the Champions League for Ajax, who eliminated Juventus and Real Madrid on their way to last season’s semi-final, where they lost in the last minute to Tottenham Hotspur.
After navigating the preliminary rounds this season they again looked comfortably placed in the group phase with 10 points before Tuesday’s outing.
“We gave away an unnecessary goal and were left to chase the match,” Ten Hag added. “We gave away the ball for them to score and that cannot happen at this level.”